Feature Article - March/April 2008

Rewarding Images

New Trends in Digital Camera Incentives

By William Flanagan

s any good incentive planner knows, the effectiveness of a merchandise reward is increased by its ability to create memories. The stronger that ability, the better the reward. That's essentially the secret behind the impressive performance of digital cameras as premium incentive products.

Digital cameras have two advantages in delivering memorable rewards. One comes when the employee or winner earns the camera through hard work and determination. That person will remember that the camera represents the fruits of their labor every time he or she uses it.

The other type of memory is more valuable. This one is made up of the images the person shoots with that camera—family, friends and destinations—and can last a lifetime. Five years after the shot, they will look at that picture and remember three things: the subjects, the circumstances and the camera they used (and, subsequently, how they got that camera). That is real incentive power.

Terry Markwart, director and assistant general manager of Special Accounts Sales for Canon, agrees.

"Digital cameras allow the end user to be interactive," he explained. "Most people using a digital camera are capturing a key moment in their life and the lives of their friends and colleagues. What better way to have people saying positive things about your company? When they ask, 'Where did you get that camera?' your employee says, 'My company gave it to me.' They say, 'Wow, you work for a really great company.' Consider this an investment in your business and watch it work for you."


Like incentive programs themselves, digital cameras come in a variety of designs that can suit different types of end users and needs. This fact gives the planner a large measure of freedom to customize the selection based on award winners. Or, if they can't predict the types of winners or their knowledge of cameras, they can select models based on a wide variety of features, including style, price and functionality.

"There are really three types of cameras," said Jimmy Beyer, national sales manager for Sony Premium Incentive Sales. Between the three types, there is a camera that reaches every type of recipient.

"All hit different groups of people," Beyer said. "The compact are something you can slip into your pocket and take pictures on the go. The high zoom are for people who might want to capture pictures of their kids taking part in sporting events. They're also great for nature photography. The digital SLRs are really taking the place of traditional SLRs for the enthusiast photo takers—people who want to use interchangeable lenses and so on. If you want to hit everybody in your program, you want to offer each of these types."

There also are cameras to meet every incentive budget. "For less than $200, you can get a high pixel count and 4X zoom," Beyer said. "Most incentive programs, especially annual programs, have a budget that can include around $200. The high zooms and digital SLRs take you to a higher level, but they're also very motivating."

"Most consumers understand now that you need more than just megapixels to make great photographs," said Heather Chevreau, sales and marketing manager for Fuji. "Eight to 12 megapixels is more than enough to make 4-by-6-inch or even poster-size images. However, to make sure the images are beautiful, users need updated technology such as face detection and intelligent flash."

Budget models offer solid functionality at an attractive price point. Most budget models are very powerful and often include high-end features such as image stabilization and in-camera red-eye reduction. Many can also shoot images at 8 megapixel resolution, which in the not-too-distant past was the resolution of the pros. At this resolution users can print large images without losing any clarity.

"Eight megapixels is the new entry level for digital cameras," said Canon's Markwart. "This is where the focus will be in 2008. Of course, there are units out there with less and more pixels, but 8 megapixels will be where the majority of them will be found."

Ultra-compact models are also very powerful, but extremely small and easy to carry. They often feature a high level of style that appeals to the fashionable user.

Digital SLRs will attract a savvy shooter with a high degree of camera knowledge. In the past, these cameras were prohibitively expensive, but now they can be found at relatively affordable price points from name-brand vendors.